Back in June of 1997, when baseball first began interleague play, and the Kansas City Royals came to Three Rivers Stadium to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three game series, I was mesmerized. Yeah, sure, it was only the Royals, a team that would go on to finish 67-94 that year, but the mere fact that an American League team was in Pittsburgh to play the Pirates in a regular season game was pretty awesome.
And, interleague baseball was a vehicle that allowed the Pirates, with their $9 million payroll, to make one hell of a statement later that summer when they swept Albert Belle, who made more than the entire Pirates roster, and the Chicago White Sox at Three Rivers.
However, after the initial buzz, it didn't take long for interleague baseball to lose its charm for me.
Eventually, things started to rotate a bit, and teams like the Red Sox were coming to PNC Park, and the Pirates were traveling to baseball meccas like Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, but that's the kind of thing that impresses you the first time. After that, it's pretty much "been there, done that."
I think the last truly great interleague experience for me was in 2008 when the Yankees came to Pittsburgh for the first time since the 1960 World Series. The Pirates took two out of three games from New York, and that was something I'll never forget.
However, if the Yankees were to come to PNC Park tomorrow, I don't think I'd care as much.
Instead of it being a novelty, interleague play is now commonplace. Baseball still tries to make a big deal out of it, but to me, it's now just another part of the schedule. It's no different that the Pittsburgh Steelers playing four teams from the NFC each year.
I wouldn't lose a minute of sleep if MLB did away with interleague play.
I'd rather see baseball go back to a more balanced schedule. Give me more games against the Phillies, Mets and Dodgers of the world.
That would be much better than watching Jeff Clement sruggle as the designated hitter in an American League park.